Roll fronts are some of the most important uranium deposits and are quite common in the United States. Generally, a roll front has an oxidized zone and a reduced zone, the latter being the zone of high mineralization and a target for in situ recovery (ISR) mining. The challenge remains the gathering of information to enable making informed decisions regarding post-mining groundwater quality. In this study, potential uncertainties in uranium sorption on iron oxyhydroxides or hydrous ferric oxides (HFO) following mining were assessed, as these oxidized zones create a greater risk for future uranium transport than fully reduced zones. Using two different geochemical databases, uncertainties in predicting uranium sorption on HFO based on a post-recovery restoration scenario were studied. The scenario was assessed using one-dimensional PHREEQC geochemical modeling simulations with respect to: uranium, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and iron hydroxide concentrations. The results of the simulations showed that uranium concentrations in solution are likely to be controlled by the amount of HFO available for sorption and the concentration of uranium-carbonate complexes formed in the solution. The presence of calcium, through the dissolution of calcite, was found to reduce the adsorption of uranium onto HFO as the resulting uranium-calcium-carbonate complexes are quite soluble. Overall, the simulations provide a procedure for predicting down-gradient uranium concentrations based on ultimate restoration levels at uranium ISR sites. This is important for risk assessment, regulatory enforcement, and decision making.
Part of the book: Management of Hazardous Wastes